Friday, January 13, 2017

All in the Family, Meet The West Wing

As Bill Clinton Showed Us, Presidents Can Appoint Family Members as Advisors

A number of media reports -- as well as several members of the House Judiciary Committee in a letter to the Attorney General -- have claimed that the President-Elect's appointment of his son-in-law Jared Kushner as a senior advisor constitutes unlawful nepotism under federal law. It does not, just like Bill Clinton's 1993 appointment of Hillary Clinton to chair his Task Force on National Health Care Reform did not.

No one questions that the President has broad latitude to appoint staff to support him in his role. The Constitution reflects that understanding in Article II, which delineates the Executive Departments (such as the Departments of State, Treasury, and Defense -- what we call the cabinet posts) and the President's appointment power. As the federal government has grown so too has the President's need for support, and in 1939 the Executive Office of the President (EOP) was created. As stated on the White House website, "[t]he EOP has responsibility for tasks ranging from communicating the President’s message to the American people to promoting our trade interests abroad. Overseen by the White House Chief of Staff, the EOP has traditionally been home to many of the President’s closest advisors."